January 29th, 2005

Illuminati

Meanwhile, in Devon

Seven days ago my father descended upon his mother's house, mob-handed with uncles and aunts and assorted of the grandchildren. She is gone, and the house must be prepared for sale - scrubbed clean of 20 years of life and a lifetime of memories and then sent out into the world, made safe for those who do not want a history, just a home.

This weekend, in Devon, I have escaped to the parents, the dog and the occasional sibling (both actual and by-law). We walk and talk of nothing in particular, catching up on goings-on and chatting of the inconsequential. We play silly cardgames and fractionally less silly boardgames, exchange late christmas presents and eat nice food.

This evening, after we eat, my father pulls a photo from the shelf behind him - him, as a child, on the beach with my grandfather I never met and my uncle I have. We ooh and aah over this frozen portrait of two young children, playing in the sand while Nazis ran riot across Europe. The world seems strangely close to me, yet entirely unknowable.

He pulls a box out - photos salvaged from the house. We rummage through - a person recognised here, a date examined there. We piece together stories and elicit explanations, descriptions and half-remembered stories. Half-brothers and fiancees, faces that mean so much and faces that mean nothing. We want to index and annotate - piece together some truth from all of it. I fight the urge, preferring my past to remain illusory - something that happened to other people, not myself. Let these stories be vague fantasies, not true things that show how we can all change so much over our life.

I watch myself do this, amused by my own denial, and eventually the story I tell myself works itself into words, which force me to a keyboard. And so I write them out, hoping that they will no longer be in my head and I can return to the games and the fripperies of conversation. But I know that they will continue to haunt me, long after my finger pauses over the button marked 'post'.